Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Response from the Principal of Fragrant Hills

This goes in the bulging file entitled "I Don't Get It":
Dear FedUpMom,

Thank you for your email. I am sorry that the morning routine was difficult one. I do want to explain that our school colors are black and gold and there are times throughout the school year in which we have spirit days and we do encourage the children to wear these colors. It is not mandated and we want for families to feel comfortable with what the children are wearing to school.

The PSSAs are a stressful assessment. The goal of the Basketball game this afternoon was for the staff members to play a short game with the children cheering as a way to come together as a school community in a fun way and for the students see us working hard and doing our best- even basketball is not a sport in which we excel. We saw this as a way to model for the students that we want for them all to do their best and work as a team when appropriate. The goal of the afternoon was not to celebrate the PSSAs but rather to celebrate the hard work the children engaged in this school year.

I hope that this provides some additional insight into the goal of this afternoon and we will be very mindful of your feedback when we are holding spirit days in the future.

[Principal of Fragrant Hills Elementary School]
What the #$%^@&*#? The kids were cheering while the teachers played basketball? What could possibly be the point? I can guarantee you that my daughter would have vastly preferred running around the court herself, and gotten a lot more out of it.

What does the PSSA have to do with teamwork? If the kids try to help each other on the test, it's called cheating. (Does the school want that?)

I'm glad I don't work in that school — I don't know the rules for basketball! (Yet another example of assuming that sports are a universal interest.) I'm sure Younger Daughter doesn't know the rules for basketball either.

This doesn't descend to the level of Stupid Principal Tricks, but I think it shows the same myopia and lack of understanding of the child's point of view. I don't think young children find it the least bit reassuring to watch their teachers do something badly. They know the teachers are in charge and they want to be able to trust them and feel confident in their judgement.

I could never have predicted when Older Daughter first started school the sheer level of wackiness of the stuff that goes on. People can have debates about whether schools are too traditional or too progressive, but stuff like this doesn't fall clearly into any camp. It's just head-scratching peculiar.


  1. If your daughter doesn't know the rules for basketball, she'll learn them soon enough. Some of my gym-class related trauma was due to the fact that I didn't know the rules of any sport except baseball. My dad watched baseball but that was it.

    So on the off-chance I actually caught the football (which probably never happened), I didn't know what to do with it.

    Our P.E. curriculum tried to resolve that problem in 9th grade by giving us quizzes on the rules of football and basketball, for which I didn't study and failed.

    I'm guessing most of the students enjoyed the basketball game far more than math class or whatever it replaced, though. If teachers and principals truly disliked standardized tests as much as they claim, they wouldn't do this kind of thing. The test would be a one-day event rather than something discussed months in advance.

  2. I think the teachers and administration are projecting their own problems onto the kids. They're stressed out about the PSSAs, so they figure the kids are too. They think it might help them chill out to have a basketball game, so they bring the kids in to cheer them on.

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